There’s a Steamed Breakfast Taco in Boyle Heights That You Must Try

Tacos de canasta, tacos al vapor—whatever you call them, these are the best in L.A.

Mexicans are famously stubborn when it comes to their regional foods—down to the dish names. The morning tacos you’ll find at Rosario Rios’s spotless Boyle Heights street cart would be called tacos de canasta, or basket tacos, by chilangos from Mexico City, but Tapatios from Jalisco know them as tacos al vapor. A native of Jocotepec, Jalisco, Rios doesn’t pick sides. Her sign reads: Tacos de Canasta o Al Vapor.

The two tacos are essentially the same, except that the guisados, or stews, in the version from Mexico’s capitol are slightly different than the ones you’d find in Jalisco. No matter, Rios’s chicharron and potato tacos are delicious, and her petite refried bean tacos make for a soul satisfying breakfast.

tacos de canasta al vapor stand

Photography by Bill Esparza

Where’s the chorizo you usually find in Jalisco’s traditional tacos de canasta? Mexican-Americans and chilangos decry the stuff in their tacos al vapor, so Rios switched to shredded pork. She doesn’t mind the compromise, but we sort of miss the bolder filling. Perhaps if we all keep asking she’ll give it another try.

Donning a hairnet, Rios runs the most hygienic stand around, using squirt bottles for her salsa and applying a fresh, spotless white towel to cover the tacos after they’ve been steamed inside of her shiny new steamer pots. She gives the same attention to her escabeche, a pickling of crisp carrots, habaneros, chiles serranos, and onions. Be sure to add a hefty pile of the tangy garnish to your orange-stained tortillas stuffed with the tasty al vapor stews of Jalisco.

Tacos Al Vapor o de Canasta, Southeast corner of Lorena St and Opal St., Boyle Heights. Open Saturdays and Sundays only, 323-247-5737